The name of this Sunday is Oculi – Latin for eyes. Today the readings and the psalm verses of the liturgy ask you this question: where do you put your eyes? What are you focused on? Where do you cast your gaze? The advertisers know that the power that an image carries – and there has never been a better ad-man than the Devil himself. He wants to capture your attention, he wants you to turn your eyes toward him in fear, doubt, and worry. For those are the armor of Satan. So he casts images and stories into your mind, trying to fix your gaze on these.
Perhaps the image he paints for you is one of financial hardship. He wants you to worry about what you shall eat and what you shall wear. He wants you to doubt that God will provide all you need. He wants you to be afraid that you won't have enough.
Or perhaps the tale he weaves for you is one of discontent. Satan wants you to focus on th fact that another person has what you want but don't have. It doesn't matter what it is: a better job, a better spouse, a better home, a more attractive physique. He shows you this picture and encourages you to see youself in it; to ask why others have it and you don't. Satan wants you to doubt that God is fair. He wants you to be afraid that others are getting ahead while you are falling behind.
Or perhaps the bedtime story Satan would whisper to you is one of shame. He wants you to worry that what you have done is unforgivable. That there is no hope. He wants you to doubt that the promises of Jesus are for you. He wants you to be afraid that there is no escape, no way out, no forgiveness left for you. That you've had your chance and blown it. That you can't go home again.
And he is a strong man, this Satan. He is an excellent story teller: and he knows many more than these: we could have mentioned loneliness, despair, heartache, pride, lust, greed and a hundred more. He knows them all. He knows how to catch your attention and fix your gaze. He paints a convincing picture. He is well armored. And you were born in his kingdom, so he's fluent in your native tongue, he knows how to speak to your heart.
So, beloved: Repent. Turn you eyes away from Satan and his stories. Wake up from staring at Satan's nightmares and see Jesus instead. Cast your eyes on him. For behold: he is a stronger man than Satan. He has come to strip Satan of his armor of worry, doubt, and fear. He will take those away from him and then he will rob Satan blind, he will take all his possessions. That is, beloved, Jesus takes you out of Satan's kingdom. He steals you away by offering up himself as a fragrant sacrifice to God for the sins of the world.
For behold what Jesus does. He lets Satan work out all his weapons on him. Jesus submits to whatever the devil can deal out. He lets every bad thing happen to himself that can happen. He loses everything: his money, his pride, his health and well-being, and then finally upon the cross: his life. Everything is taken away from Jesus – even – mystery of mysteries – the care of his Father as he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” - and still Jesus gains the victory. All the wrath against sin is poured upon Jesus, God in the flesh, and still he rises on the third day. Everything that a man could worry about, or have reason to doubt God for, or fear – everything falls upon Jesus. And still: he is alive and well though he had to walk through death and divine wrath and hell to get it.
So beloved, wake up! Feel the icy waters of baptismal water thrown on your face and open your eyes! The devil's kingdom never was anything more than a story, a third-rate spell cast by a second-rate Devil. The waters of Baptism have shocked you awake and fixed your eyes on Jesus. As surely as a little water melted the Wicked Witch of the West, so Satan is undone by the Water and the Word of your baptism. You have nothing to worry about! In Baptism you have been made God's child! You have no reason to doubt: God Almighty has sworn an oath of blood to love you forever! You have nothing to fear: Jesus has taken upon himself all that you ever could have been afraid of and has destroyed them all.
So shut your ears to the devil's lies. He still wanders around seeking whom he may devour – but if you look closely you will see that he has lost his armor. One little word can fell him: Jesus. God in the flesh for you. Jesus is your great shield and defense. Nothing in the devil's armory can touch you since you are protected by the Shield of David, the great I AM, the Lord of Hosts: Jesus of Nazareth. Cling to this Jesus – be filled with his word, his Story, his truth instead of the devil's lies. Come to Absolution and hear the death sentence read to your sins as Christ forgives them, kills them, buries them for ever in his own tomb and raises you to life with him. Come to the Lord's Table and have life poured down your throat: the blood of the covenant which bought your salvation. Receive the fruits of the cross: the fruits of the true tree of life: the Body and Blood of the Lord.
O beloved, cling to these gifts. The day is coming when the Lord will return and cut out the devil's tongue once and for all and stop his lying stories. We look forward to that day in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. You share in this heavenly reality even now as you receive heave on earth in the Lord's Supper. But still, on this side of glory, the devil wonders around, seeking his prey. He is a strong man. Your house has been swept clean by the stronger man, Jesus. But if your house is swept clean but then remains empty: the strong man will return and inhabit it again with his lying tales. So cling to the stronger man. Hide behind him. Seek his protection. Cast your eyes upon Jesus and let you gaze remain fixed there. Hear him weave a new story for you, a tale of forgiveness and love. A true story that begins in Baptism, is renewed in Holy Absolution, and strengthened in the Lord's Supper. These gifts of the Lord are for you, beloved Christians. Here is where the Stronger Man meets you and keeps you in his kingdom. He is faithful. He will bring this story to a glorious end, in his kingdom where forever more your eyes shall look upon the Lord who loves you to death – and even through death to life everlasting. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.